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What makes a great NQT Mentor?

Being an NQT mentor is a hugely responsible but also rewarding experience for a teacher.  The role requires mentors to perform many different roles; to be approachable and supportive, knowledgeable and fair, whilst having the confidence to tackle issues and have ‘difficult conversations’ if needed.  But what distinguishes a ‘good’ mentor from a ‘great’ one?  

What makes a great NQT Mentor?

Being an NQT mentor is a hugely responsible but also rewarding experience for a teacher.  The role requires mentors to perform many different roles; to be approachable and supportive, knowledgeable and fair, whilst having the confidence to tackle issues and have ‘difficult conversations’ if needed.  But what distinguishes a ‘good’ mentor from a ‘great’ one?      

Having supported NQTs for over 10 years, and training NQTs as Director of the Teaching School’s NQT Programme, James Siddle gives his top tips on what makes a ‘great’ mentor.     

Keep contact frequent

Weekly scheduled meetings are best, but informal contact should occur on a daily basis. Popping in to say hello and checking to see how they are doing can keep the NQT focused and feeling supported.   

It’s not all about the grades

Although NQTs officially need to have at least three graded lesson observations, the key to great support is frequent, un-graded observations that offer constructive feedback and suggestions on how they can improve. Grading too early can lead to feelings of failure, especially during the early days of learning their craft. 

If everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority

Don’t overwhelm them with too many targets.  Give three targets as a maximum, and allow them to work on these for at least a half term.  Monitor how they are progressing in your weekly meetings.

Praise, Praise, Praise

Be kind to your NQTs. They are teaching everything for the first time and have to be brave on a daily basis!  Praise their effort, tenacity and hard work regularly. 

Never say “you’re doing so well, we don’t see you as an NQT”

This may sound like a compliment to an NQT who seems to be doing well.  However, this can be dangerous path to go down.  All NQTs, regardless of talent, require support and feedback on how they are doing.  Never presume the NQTs who seem to be coping well don’t need your support. 

Give them space to fail

Don’t be tempted to step in and rescue an NQT every time a lesson is going wrong.  Use the experience of a bad lesson to talk about what went wrong and what they could have done differently.  Share some teaching ‘war stories’ of when things have gone badly for you and show them that even experienced teachers get it wrong sometimes!

Get some support for you

Mentoring is a rewarding experience but can sometimes feel like a huge responsibility.  Find an NQT Induction Programme that also offers mentor training as part of their package and use the opportunity to network with other mentors to share ideas. 

James Siddle - NQT Programme Director

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